HESPERIA—A divided school board last night sided with superintendent Mark McKinney, voting 3-2 to fire Hesperia Unified School District’s chief of police Mike Graham.
Graham chose to have a public hearing over issues relating to his ouster. In testimony before the board this week, McKinney maintained Graham had been insubordinate.
Graham insisted that his firing was retaliatory and that he is being punished for speaking out against reductions the police department was forced to sustain earlier this year as well as for his efforts to get to the bottom of an alleged embezzlement of associated student body funds at Sultana High School more than two years ago. McKinney said that diminishing revenues required that the district make cuts and that the police division was a logical place to make those economies. He said that Graham had proven intransigent in carrying out that policy.
Graham, a former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, a one-time deputy marshal with San Bernardino County, and a former security officer with the Air Force, was supported by the testimony of one of his subordinates in the school district police department, Hesperia city councilman Bill Holland, himself a former sheriff’s deputy. Holland told the board that it was he, rather than Graham, who had ridiculed as “absurd” the directives in one of McKinney’s memos to Graham calling upon him to reduce the activity and authority of the district police department.
Graham’s insistence that he had attempted to comply with McKinney’s instructions did not convince the board majority that he had not defied the superintendent. During his oftentimes public feud with McKinney, Graham occasionally made deprecating remarks about board president Chris Bentley.
When the board came out of a closed session Thursday evening, it was Bentley who announced, “The board hereby terminates Mr. Graham’s employment with the district, effective immediately.
Graham was joined in his vote to confirm McKinney’s firing of Graham by board members Eric Swanson and Niccole Childs. Board members Hardy Black and Anthony Riley voted to sustain Graham’s appeal.
Graham hired on with the district police department in 2001 and was promoted to chief in April 2008.